Archive for May, 2018

Growing Joy

Friday, May 25th, 2018

I want people to see that happiness is taught in the Bible and that God wants us to have it, starting now, and that the deep joy of living, far from being fickle, can be counted on to grow and expand and become purer and sweeter.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 69

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

Your Everest

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Everyone has an Everest. Whether it’s a climb you chose, or a circumstance you find yourself in, you’re in the middle of an important journey. Can you imagine a climber scaling the wall of ice at Everest’s Lhotse Face and saying, “This is such a hassle”? Or spending the first night in the mountain’s “death zone” and thinking, “I don’t need this stress”? The climber knows the context of his stress. It has personal meaning to him; he has chosen it. You are most liable to feel like a victim of the stress in your life when you forget the context the stress is unfolding in. “Just another cold, dark night on the side of Everest” is a way to remember the paradox of stress. The most meaningful challenges in your life will come with a few dark nights.

The biggest problem with trying to avoid stress is how it changes the way we view our lives, and ourselves. Anything in life that causes stress starts to look like a problem. If you experience stress at work, you think there’s something wrong with your job. If you experience stress in your marriage, you think there’s something wrong with your relationship. If you experience stress as a parent, you think there’s something wrong with your parenting (or your kids). If trying to make a change is stressful, you think there’s something wrong with your goal.

When you think life should be less stressful, feeling stressed can also seem like a sign that you are inadequate: If you were strong enough, smart enough, or good enough, then you wouldn’t be stressed. Stress becomes a sign of personal failure rather than evidence that you are human. This kind of thinking explains, in part, why viewing stress as harmful increases the risk of depression. When you’re in this mindset, you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

Choosing to see the connection between stress and meaning can free you from the nagging sense that there is something wrong with your life or that you are inadequate to the challenges you face. Even if not every frustrating moment feels full of purpose, stress and meaning are inextricably connected in the larger context of your life. When you take this view, life doesn’t become less stressful, but it can become more meaningful.

Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, p. 86-87

[Photo: Berg Goldeck, above Spittal an der Drau, Austria, July 29, 1998]

Community

Monday, May 21st, 2018

My friend Sara says that the really inconvenient thing about being Christian is the fact that God is revealed in other people, and other people are annoying. I understand the impulse of not wanting to be in community. I can’t argue with that. But I think the experience of bumping up against other people has changed me in ways that I never could have been changed if I was just reading books and practicing meditation. We don’t get to be Christians on our own. It’s really inconvenient, and I wish there were a different setup for that. But that’s what we were handed.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, p. 207-208

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, on the property of Gateway Community Church, April 24, 2016]

Carried

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

He will carry us in his arms till we are able to walk; he will carry us in his arms when we are weary with walking; he will not carry us if we will not walk.

Very different are the good news Jesus brings us from certain prevalent representations of the gospel, founded on the pagan notion that suffering is an offset for sin, and culminating in the vile assertion that the suffering of an innocent man, just because he is innocent, yea perfect, is a satisfaction to the holy Father for the evil deeds of his children. . . . The good news of Jesus was just the news of the thoughts and ways of the Father in the midst of his family.

— George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel, p. 81-82

[Photo: Burg Dahn, Germany, July 1997]

Our Common Human Hospitality

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Our common human hospitality longs to find room for those who are left out. It’s just who we are if allowed to foster something different, something more greatly resembling what God had in mind. Perhaps, together, we can teach each other how to bear the beams of love, persons becoming persons, right before our eyes. Returned to ourselves.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. xv

[Photo: Burg Dahn, Germany, July 1997]

Intercessory Prayer

Friday, May 18th, 2018

When you want to give the audience an emotion — whether in acting or in singing or in writing — you have to be on the other side of the emotion. In talking with one of you, I likened it to intercessory prayer. When you are praying for someone, beware. Do not manipulate. Do not try to control. Do not try to order the universe. You simply move through into that person and then offer whoever it is to God. But, again, you go through and out and on other side of emotion. If you are manipulative with your character — one you’re playing, one you’re writing about, or one you’re praying about — then it doesn’t work.

— Madeleine L’Engle, Madeleine L’Engle, Herself, compiled by Carole F. Chase, p. 222

[Photo: Rhein River, Germany, from Burg Rheinstein, July 1997]

The Message of Pain

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

When clients are referred to me because they’ve gotten stuck in the thorny aftermath of intimate betrayal, they are invariably preoccupied with why their partners did it to them — or worse, what they might have done to make their partners betray them. That breaks my heart. Not only does focus on the betrayer’s motivations distract from healing but speculation about a partner’s motives is utterly fruitless. We can never know why someone betrays an intimate bond.

For example, suppose you decide, as most of my clients do at some point, that your partner lied, cheated, or abused you because she was depressed, anxious, deluded, or stressed out, or because she drank too much, exercised too little, or experienced any of a multitude of possible contributing factors. The fact is, most people with those experiences do not betray their loved ones. At best, speculation about your partner’s motives may yield possible preconditions for the betrayal, but you’ll never accurately identify why your partner chose to betray you.

Rather than speculating about what might have caused your partner to inflict this pain, it is far more to your benefit to concentrate your attention on the internal message of the pain, which is to heal, repair, and improve.

— Steven Stosny, Living and Loving After Betrayal, p. 24

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

Loving Life

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Very few of us love life enough… Most of us allow small things to get in the way of our enjoyment of life, and we get into the habit of not seeing all the wonderful things that are in our lives. I see this bad habit start at a very early age. When I see a young child who is not getting their own way, I will sometimes see them suck in the love-of-life energy. It doesn’t normally last long with a young child, though, and within a few minutes I will see this energy burst forth again.

As an adult, if we are not used to letting this energy burst forth, it may take us a little longer to remember how to do it. The more conscious you become of loving life, the more you build up this energy, which helps you physically and mentally.

It is important to bring love of life to the work you are doing, whatever it is. You don’t have to love the job — it may be far short of what you aspire to — but when you approach it with love of life, you will be able to enjoy it, do a good job, and make the best of any opportunities it brings.

— Lorna Byrne, Love from Heaven, p. 110-111

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

Finding Happiness

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Today, let go of your thoughts about what brings you happiness. It is time to resign as your own teacher. Ask Heaven to show you specifically what would make you happy and to give you the strength to enjoy it.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 316

[Photo: Burnside Farms, Virginia, May 8, 2018]

God’s Covenant Plan

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

The point about the Messiah’s death [in Romans 3], then, is that it demonstrates in action the faithfulness of God to his covenant plan — the plan to rescue the world through Israel, to renew the whole world by giving Abraham a vast, uncountable sin-forgiven family. It was not a matter of Jesus’s persuading God to do something he might not otherwise have done. The Messiah’s death accomplishes what God himself planned to do and said he would do. Somehow, the Messiah’s faithful death constitutes the fulfillment of the Israel-shaped plan. Or, to put it another way (since Paul, like all the early Christians, had thought everyhing through again in the light of the resurrection), when God called Abraham, he had the Messiah’s cross in mind all along.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 320-321

[Photo: Altenbaumburg, Germany, Mother’s Day 1999]